by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
August 30, 2013
KEEPING IT REAL: MARTIN LUTHER KING'S PROGRESSIVE VISION
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- The whitewashed, sanitized Martin Luther King Jr. was trotted out on Aug. 24 for the 50th anniversary of the Aug. 28,1963 March on Washington.
For too many Americans, their awareness of Dr. King begins and ends with the "I Have a Dream" speech he delivered on the national mall.
The Dr. King that called for resistance against the "giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism" was nowhere to be seen at the celebration.
Nor was the Dr. King that said, "The profit motive, when it is the sole basis of an economic system, encourages a cutthroat competition and selfish ambition that inspires men to be more concerned about making a living than making a life."
Nor was the Dr. King that said, "If an American is concerned only about his nation, he will not be concerned about the peoples of Asia, Africa, or South America. Is this not why nations engage in the madness of war without the slightest sense of penitence? Is this not why the murder of a citizen of your own nation is a crime, but the murder of cittizens of another nation in war is an act of heroic virtue?"
Nor was the Dr. King that called the United States, "the greatest purveyor of violence today," a nation with plenty of money for war, but pennies for the poor.
That's why, as Professor Cornell West said in an interview on the Pacifica Radio program "Democracy Now!" last week, the Martin Luther King, Jr. of the last four years of his life would not have been invited to the 50th anniversary celebration.
"Brother Martin would not be invited to the very march in his name," West said, "because he would talk about drones, he'd talk about Wall Street criminality, he would talk about the working class being pushed to the margins as profits went up for corporate executives and their compensation, he would talk about the legacies of white supremacy.
"Will the connection between drones, new Jim Crow, prison-industrial complex, attacks on the working class, escalating profits at the top, be talked about and brought together during that march? I don't hold my breath. But Brother Martin's spirit would want somebody to push it."
Professor West was right. No one wanted to address the issues that Dr. King advocated in the last years of his life. No one wanted to face what Dr. King called "the fierce urgency of now."
The economic dimension of the Civil Rights Movement - that black Americans living in poverty would never achieve equality with whites as long as the paths to upward mobility were closed to people of color - remains with us today
And the triple evils of militarism, materialism, and racism are even more deeply entrenched in our society than they were five decades ago.
Today in the United States, black unemployment remains double that of whites. The number of black children living in poverty is triple that of whites. A black teenager today has a one in three chance of going to prison during his lifetime.
By every measure -- from infant mortality, to educational achievement, to workplace mobility, to income inequality, to life expectancy - black Americans are still, as Dr. King described it, living "on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity."
People often forget that in the days before Dr. King was gunned down in Memphis in 1968, he was supporting the demands of the city's sanitation workers for better pay and working conditions and the right to unionize. In his mind, prosperity was inseparable from equality.
Yes, since 1963, the codified, legal discrimination that black Americans faced has been dismantled. But the historical legacy of racism still remains
After the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965 earlier this year, Republican-controlled legislatures across the country are coming up with voting laws designed to disenfranchise minority voters. One in 13 blacks cannot vote in America - about 2.2 million - because of felon disenfranchisement laws
According to Michelle Alexander, author of "The New Jim Crow," there are more black men in prison today than were enslaved in 1850. While blacks comprise 13 percent of the U.S. population, they account for more than half of the shooting deaths
With 50 years of distance, the March on Washington is part of what Dr. West calls "the Santa Clausification" of Martin Luther King, Jr. Forgotten is how controversial the match was.
President John. F. Kennedy tried to get its organizers to call it off. The FBI tried to discourage people from coming. The Justice Department was standing by to cut off the microphone when Dr. King was speaking, for fear that something inflammatory might be said. And opinion polls at time showed twice as many Americans disapproved of the march than supported it.
The themes that Dr. King sounded in the last five years of his life still resonate today. And a new generation of activists are reviving those themes, and preventing the vision of the original movement from being buried under the gauzy glow of feel-good nostalgia. They could be seen at the margins of last weekend's events, but they will be front and center soon.
AR's Chief of Correspondents, Randolph T. Holhut, holds an M.P.A .from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and has been an award-winning journalist in New England for more than 30 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at email@example.com.
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On Native Ground
By Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- So this is how the First Amendment ends.
The people who committed the crimes - the invasion and occupation of Iraq, the killing of civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq, the legitimization of torture and detention without trial of terrorism suspects, the widespread warrantless spying on Americans, and a myriad of other offenses against U.S. and international law - go unpunished.
The person who released documents showing numerous war crimes being committed, and numerous violations of U.S. and international law, gets 35 years in prison.
The sentence given to Army Pfc. Bradley Manning on Aug. 21 sent an unmistakable message to every American.
If you see official wrongdoing and speak up about it, you will be punished.
If you question the legality of U.S. foreign policy, you will be punished.
If you put your conscience ahead of your career, you will be punished.
Manning received the longest-ever sentence for a leak of government information to media, while the people who committed war crimes go unpunished.
So much for government transparency, freedom of expression and freedom of the press.
Make no mistake, what happened to Manning and what could happen to Edward Snowden, represents nothing less than the criminalization of journalism. It is more than a miscarriage of justice. It is a disgrace that mocks everything that our nation is supposed to stand for.
I know there are those who say Manning is not a journalist, and that WikiLeaks isn't a news outlet.
To those people, I say that the great thing about the First Amendment is it doesn't not contain any formal definition of who is a journalist. There are no journalism licenses or permits. There is no central Bureau of Journalism that certifies who is and is not a news reporter.
Journalism is not a profession. It's an act. If you have a story to tell and the means of telling it to others, you are a journalist.
And the main tenets of journalism - speaking truth to power, ferreting out secrets and hidden information, and finding out what's being done in our names, and then telling the world - were all upheld by Manning. Where the majority of corporate press failed, Manning, and now Snowden, succeeded.
That's why Manning got 35 years in prison.
That's why David Miranda, the partner of Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald, was detained without charge this week for nine hours at Heathrow Airport in London and only released after his cellphone, laptop, and other electronic gear - and NSA documents - was confiscated.
That's why British intelligence operatives forced the Guardian to destroy computer hard drives this week to attempt to impede the newspaper's reporting on the National Security Agency and the agency's campaign of illegal surveillance as revealed by Snowden.
The arrogance, the abuse of power, the lies and deceit of our leaders must not be revealed. The all-encompassing surveillance state, an outgrowth of the all-encompassing "Global War on Terror," must not be questioned. Those who do give aid and comfort to our enemies.
The Obama Administration wanted to make an example of Manning to intimidate future whistleblowers.
The Cameron government in the UK wanted to intimidate Greenwald and the Guardian as payback for the Snowden leaks.
And both President Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron want to make sure that their respective governments can conduct dubious foreign policy free of the prying eyes of the public.
This intimidation and harassment of journalists who challenge the state cannot stand.
In the words of Ben Wizner, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Speech, Privacy and Technology Project: "A legal system that doesn't distinguish between leaks to the press in the public interest and treason against the nation will deprive the public of critical information that is necessary for democratic accountability."
There will be other Mannings and Snowdens, unafraid and unbowed in their desire to bring the truth to light. There will be others, like Julian Assange and Glenn Greenwald, who will step forward to help whistleblowers tell their stories. But that will only happen if we, the people, stand with the whistleblowers, rather than the criminals they blew the whistle on.
AR's Chief of Correspondents, Randolph T. Holhut, holds a Master's in Public Administration from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and has been an award-winning journalist in New England for more than 30 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.